Environmental Correctness: Online Shopping vs. Malls

I look forward to voting a straight Democratic ticket in 2020.

But if Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination, I may have a dilemma.

It’s not that she’s not smart, and she’s certainly well-organized.  (And of course I’d vote for her.)

But in June, a headline in the New York Times read: “Ms. Warren seeks to break up companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. And she has taken her fight to Silicon Valley.”

That could wreck my non-driving lifestyle.

I don’t drive.  I made this decision decades ago because of environmental concerns.  According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas.”

But in the last decade, developers have ruined my non-driving life-style.  After the big malls opened in the exurbs, stores in the city and inner-suburbs  closed.  It is no longer possible to do my shopping in the area.  And I refuse to waste hours riding buses to a mall.

And so I discovered what everybody knows:  you can shop online.  I have ordered a weird array of stuff at Amazon and many other online stores.   Let’s see, a particular brand of soap, tables (one is now a bird-watching post for the cats), a Christmas tree, office supplies, blankets, shoes, and an alarm clock, because they no longer sell them at Target.

I’ve often wondered if not driving is also “a classics-brain thing.”  When I was in college, three of us in classics didn’t drive.  Since then, I’ve met others in classics who don’t drive.  It’s very ancient of us, don’t you think?

There is much in favor of not driving.  Shopping by mail saves energy on the consumer end, because  we’re not driving to the mall. But whether the delivery of packages via planes and cars to online shoppers wastes as much energy as the delivery of goods by trucks to megastores, with the consumer driving added, I couldn’t say.

If I could find any hard data, I’d share it, but mostly I’ve found ranting against Amazon without statistics to back it up.  At the EPA website, however, I found an interesting article about ordering groceries online, which of course is preferable for people who have “health or mobility issues.”

“A recent USDA survey found that in 88% of U.S households, people hop in their car to buy groceries, driving an average of 4 miles to their preferred store. If each of these households took at least one trip per week, that would add up to over 42 billion miles driven round-trip each year—about 10 times the distance to Pluto!…

“By letting your food share a ride with other orders, grocery delivery has the potential to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. However, how much this would lower pollution—if at all—depends on many factors.

What do you think about online shopping? Anybody have any stats? And do you know any non-drivers?